TORONTO -- The CEO of Ontario Health is calling on hospitals in the province to be ready to activate their surge capacity plans within 48 hours as a spike in COVID-19 cases threatens the health-care system’s ability to care for patients effectively.

In a memo issued to hospital CEO’s on Tuesday, Ontario Health President Matt Anderson said the province has entered a “critical phase” of the pandemic where there is widespread community transmission.

“Our ability to care for patients (COVID and non-COVID alike) is being challenged, so we are asking hospitals to work together, even more, to ensure we can continue to have the bed capacity to care for patients, safely and effectively,” Anderson wrote in the memo.

“With this in mind, I am requesting that, if you have not done so already, hospitals immediately begin working with their regional / sub regional COVID-19 response structures, or incident management systems (IMS), to be prepared to and/or activate surge capacity planning within 48 hours to support efforts across your regions.”

The memo calls for regions in the grey and red levels of the province’s tiered framework – effectively most of the GTA – to ensure at least 10 to 15 per cent surge capacity of staffed adult inpatient beds for COVID-19 within 48 hours.

In an email to CP24, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is monitoring the situation in hospitals closely.

“The situation we are seeing in our hospitals is a reflection of COVID-19 spread in the community. Now more than ever, it is critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice to help stop the spread of the virus. Everyone has a role to play to protect each other and maintain health system capacity,” the statement reads.

“We continue to closely monitor the evolving situation and are committed to working with our partners to ensure there is capacity in hospitals across the province to provide care for any Ontarian requiring hospitalization.”

The memo comes as the province reported 2,300 new cases Tuesday, smashing through its previous single-day record.

It also comes as Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) across Ontario see more patients than at any point in the pandemic so far.

While the arrival of new vaccines have provided some much needed light at the end of the tunnel recently, public health officials have warned that it will take many months to immunize enough people so that COVID-19 no longer poses a major threat to the population. Officials have also warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed and that many people could still die if regular infection prevention measures such as physical distancing, handwashing and refraining from unnecessary gatherings are not followed.